Careers advice: Job search Lotto - is it really a numbers game?

28 November 2023

Is is true that completing more job applications improves your chances of getting an interview or a job? In reality, the application process is more complex than just a numbers game. Alumni Careers Manager Konstantina Dee gives her top tips to improve your chances of success. 

I often speak to graduates, who are applying for jobs on a daily basis and who will tell me “It's just a numbers game.” I get it, the more applications you submit, statistically it appears likelier that you will get to the interview stage and the more interviews you get, the higher the chance you get an offer. Put simply, more applications improves your chances - but is this true?

In reality the job application process is more complex than just a numbers game. If we relate to the complexity theory, the job-hunting process, like any complex system, has emergent properties that cannot be predicted by simply submitting more and more applications. There is an old saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” which resonates with the job application process too – there is a whole complex system that comes into play and it can be linked to variables such as how tailored your CV and cover letters are, the dynamics of the labour market and the economy, and the requirements of organisations. These link to non-linear outcomes, so it is important to understand that the outcome of any job application can be unpredictable.  

Knowing from personal experience how much emotional energy I've put into each job application I've done, I don’t envy those who are making numerous job applications during these challenging times. It's entirely up to you whether you submit 10 applications a day or five a week, but do take on board some of the shared wisdom out there:

Use LinkedIn

Many jobs are advertised through LinkedIn and it is very tempting to press the easy apply button, which does what it says on the tin. Recruiters often deal with hundreds of applications, so expect that the competition will be fierce and that you will need to make sure your profile stands out. Don’t rush to press the button before you have completed your prep work and by that I mean:

  • Create a relevant headline for your LinkedIn profile - this can include your course at WBS, your area of expertise, your key skills etc. The headline can be changed easily and if you change it (in the mobile app you have more characters to play with) you can include some of the keywords from the job you are applying for
  • Location – recently we had a session with social media expert and writer Luan Wise, who suggested that if you use easy apply it is worth checking out the location of the job. In some instances, the recruiter might want you to be near their main offices and if your location on your profile is set to Coventry, but the role’s location is in London, the automated filters might reject your application
  • Update your experiences and articulate relevant (yes relevant) achievements, which actually relate to the specific job
  • Follow your easy apply submission with a note to the recruiter within the next few days. If the name of the recruiter is not listed with the job posting, do some research online. You can find people who work in the company and who have job titles like‘Talent Acquisition Manager’, ‘Talent Partner’, ‘Executive Recruiter’ etc. Even if they aren't the one directly involved in the recruitment of the post, very often they will refer you to the correct person with in the company.

Create job alerts

Going through pages and pages of job vacancies, many of which not relevant to you, might be overwhelming. Job-hunting websites generally allow you create job alerts that match your search criteria. 

When targeting a specific company, create a job alert for them - LinkedIn has provided step-by-step instructions how to do this. 

Once you set up the alerts, you will receive daily emails with appropriate jobs, for which of course, you will prepare tailored applications. 

Keep a number of applications on the go

You might have been invited to an interview and progressed to the next stage. However, the outcome is unpredictable (remember complexity theory above). Of course, celebrate the success of passing through to the next stage but whilst you prepare for the interview, continue submitting other applications.

And final remarks, although you have probably heard these before:

Tailor your CV and make sure it is scannable and easy to read. The vocabulary in your CV should be a close match to the language used in the job description. Include the keywords in the bullets of your experiences so the document can pass through the Automated Tracking System filters. According to Jobscan, as recently quoted in this Forbes article, over 97% of Fortune 500 companies are using ATS software. There are various free AI tools now to help you with that - use them but still remain the author of your career story. 

Two thirds of your time should be spent on networking and although you might frown at the idea of sending an introductory message, you’ve just got to do it.